i>JERICHO DANCES TO ITS OWN TUNE
CBS's new drama Jericho continued to draw solid ratings Wednesday night despite having to vie with the ABC hit Dancing With the Stars. Dancing scored a 10.5 rating and a 17 share in the 8:00 p.m. hour, while Jericho posted a 7.4/12 for CBS. Criminal Minds put CBS ahead at 9:00 p.m with a 10.7/17, well ahead of a Lost clip show on ABC, which scored a 6.1/9. CBS remained in the lead at 10:00 p.m. with CSI: NY, which drew a 10.4/17. Barbara Walter's interview with Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's widow Terri, registered a strong 8.8/15 for ABC's 20/20. But NBC's new Kidnapped was still unable to capture an audience, remaining in third place with a 4.4/7.
FCC TO PROBE KID-SHOW ADS
Responding to complaints that commercials on TV kids shows is contributing to a spreading epidemic of childhood obesity, the FCC has agreed to set up a task force to look into the issue and offer recommendations. "Small children can't weed out the marketing messages from their favorite shows," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said Wednesday at a Washington DC news conference. "Especially when the marketing campaigns feature favorite TV characters like SpongeBob or Scooby-Doo." Also participating in the news conference was Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, who maintained that the aim was not to formulate additional regulations governing advertisements aimed at children. "I think if we want to start an adversarial relationship at the very outset, that would be the way to do it. We want these [food] companies to participate," Brownback told Broadcasting & Cable magazine. However, he indicated that none of the companies had yet shown a willingness to do so. He said that the were still trying to determine "whether this was a process they could join. We urge their participation and would love to have them." The Associated Press reported that the task force already includes Sesame Workshop, the Walt Disney Co., and the conservative Parents Television Council.
FRONTLINE SHOWS CENSORED
News footage shot for the PBS series Frontline in Afghanistan in which soldiers use four-letter expletives have been cut in two upcoming episodes, the New York Observer reported Wednesday. "It's a really sorry state of affairs if we're Disney-fying combat," writer-producer Martin Smith told the weekly. His words were echoed by Frontline's executive producer Louis Wiley Jr., who remarked, "What I fear, really, is that we're on the verge of making some of our best material less forceful, less powerful. ... You get into a situation where we're all going to be looking not to what is the best choice editorially for what we publish, but what is this government agency going to do to us? They get us to do the censorship ourselves. They use a huge cudgel. They threaten everyone with these draconian fines, and they don't have to do anything. It accomplishes the same end."
WALLACE-CLINTON ENCOUNTER MAY BE RELEASED SOON ON DVD
Fox News on Tuesday demanded that YouTube.com remove a video of Bill Clinton's combative interview with Chris Wallace last Sunday, then allowed the website to restore the video the following day. The Boston Phoenix, which noted that other Fox News clips, which showed the network's commentators in dominant command, had not been ordered removed, asked a Fox spokesperson to explain. The response: "Our Internet division used poor judgment in asking this to be taken down. We're thrilled the Wallace-Clinton clip has received so many hits on YouTube." Meanwhile Fox News chief Roger Ailes called Clinton's response to Wallace a "wild overreaction" to the reporter's question and "an assault on all journalists." Ailes told the Associated Press: "If you can't sit there and answer a question from a professional, mild-mannered, respectful reporter like Chris Wallace, then the hatred for journalists is showing. ... I've never had an interview like that, certainly not with a former president of the United States. ... No one could have been more shocked than I was."
SALE OF UNIVISION REPORTED CLOSED
Univision Communications shareholders on Wednesday narrowly approved the sale of the company to a private equity group headed by media mogul Haim Saban for $12.3 billion. Voting against the sale were Mexico City-based Televisa and Venezuela-based Venevision, two primary content providers for Univision who had previously attempted to buy the Spanish-language American network. The "yes" vote won by a 3 percent margin.
MAHER FINALLY GETS HIS FREE SPEECH
Bill Maher finally got to make the remarks on religion that he claims he was barred from making on the CBS Evening News as part of its "Free Speech" segment two weeks ago. He made them Wednesday night on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News telecast. Maher prefaced his remarks by saying, "Look, I think they should drop the segment, because it was billboarded as free speech. ... But it's a little disappointing when they say we're going to have free speech and then every night it's the most agreed upon speech you could ever imagine. Last night they had someone who took the stand and said it was good to have football back in New Orleans." O'Reilly then responded, "That's he way they run the network news operations." Taking O'Reilly up on his invitation to speak about religion, Maher described it as "a mass psychosis" and argued that the U.S. cannot succeed in Iraq "because there are two religious sects who are basically at each other's throats." Maher went on to say that he disagreed with Rosie O'Donnell's equating Christian fundamentalists with fanatical Muslims because "nobody takes [preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson] ... that seriously here. In Saudi Arabia, they speak out against homosexuals and then chop off their heads."
SAG MEMBERSHIP FAVORS COMMERCIALS PACT
Members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) have voted overwhelmingly to extend their contracts with the ad industry for two years. The new contract includes ads on the Internet as well as traditional media. SAG President Alan Rosenberg said Wednesday, "The agreement clearly establishes jurisdiction over commercials appearing on all new media platforms, calls for a crucial joint study that will allow us to analyze the rapidly changing industry."